If you crossed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time with a Jennifer Crusie romance, you might end up with something like this novel. Simsion tells the story of Don Tillman, a genetics professor at a university in Australia, whose precisely ordered and scheduled life and lack of social awareness suggest to the reader that he’s on the spectrum, long before Don comes out and says it directly. Don decides he needs to find a wife so he develops a questionnaire that he can use to find a suitable candidate or as he calls it, “The Wife Project.”
However, after a couple of disastrous dates, Don begins to wonder if there really is a woman out there that is his perfect match. Then, there’s literally a knock at his office door and in comes Rosie, a woman Don thinks has filled out the survey but who is clearly not suitable—she smokes, works in a bar, and is a vegetarian. However, Rosie is also a force of nature and before Don knows it, he’s helping Rosie try to track down her biological father (Don is a geneticist after all) and his ordered, structured life starts to unravel but mostly in a good way.
It could be pretty easy to turn Don into “Sheldon” (as much as I love Big Bang Theory) but Simsion walks that fine line as he shows us the world from Don’s point of view. The absurdity of many of our social rituals are laid bare when seen through Don’s eyes but you also get a feel for a mind that is constantly measuring and calculating and struggling to figure out the rules. Don thinks he is incapable of feeling love, but as you might expect, that turns out not to be true.
Graeme Simsion originally wrote this story as a screenplay and though I can easily imagine this on the big or small screen, I think some of the spark might be lost if we can’t fully sit in Don’s head. Some of Don’s tics grown a little wearing (the constant estimation of people’s BMI, for instance), but the repetition goes to show how this behavior is not something he can turn off. This is not the best book I’ve read with a main character on the autism spectrum but it was a quick fun read.